Jurors: Electronic Communications

In an age when people tweet and post on Facebook or other social media their every thought, feeling or observation, or check Wikipedia, fulfilling civic responsibility and following the judge’s admonition not to discuss or research a case while serving on a jury can be a challenge.

A New Zealand court judge identifies some reasons and background about why some jurors go online. The National Center for State Courts notes the difficulty: “The incidence of juror use of advanced communications technologies to conduct independent research on trial-related issues and to communicate with others about the trial while it is underway is a source of increasing concern about the fairness of jury verdicts.” According to a recent Wall Street Journal survey, lawyers increasingly use jurors’ social-media posts to overturn convictions and acquittals.

Suggested State Legislation

Jurors: Electronic Communications, a 2013 SSL draft based on California law, generally requires a court, when admonishing a jury against conversation, research, or dissemination of information pursuant to the trial, to clearly explain, as part of the admonishment, that the prohibition applies to all forms of electronic and wireless communication. It requires the officer in charge of a jury to prevent any form of electronic or wireless communication. The Act makes violating such admonishment punishable as civil or criminal contempt of court.